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One of the more recognizable maladies that tends to affect the elderly and bedridden is a condition known as ‘scabies’, which produces a quite itchy and unpleasant rash on the sufferer’s skin. While you may well have heard of, or even seen, this problem, what you may not know is that it is in fact caused by mites feeding on the person’s blood. These types of tiny, multi-legged parasites are responsible for a variety of rashes and other such problems for many people, commonly being spread by transportation on improperly cleaned clothing. They tend to have a relatively quick life cycles and can cause a large amount of discomfort as they feed on, lay eggs on and move across their host. But, can these parasites also manage to infest dogs?
Can Dogs Get Mites?
The answer is a resounding ‘yes’, with many animals falling victim to these parasites each year and suffering from a range of unpleasant side effects. Much like in humans though, the problem can be resolved relatively quickly once it has been noticed.
Does My Dog Have Mites?
If you are unsure if your animal has contracted a case of mites, there are some telltale signs that you should keep a lookout for. The first of these is frequent or near-constant scratching by the dog. Depending on the exact type of mite, this may be localized to one part of the body (e.g. ear mites cause irritation around the head). The dog may also begin to look more unkempt, with the parasites damaging the quality of their coat and possibly causing blood and other detritus to clump together in the hairs. The third symptom will typically appear in more advanced infestations, where the dog may start to lose its hair and reveal sores around the main sites of the infestation where the skin has become inflamed and broken. The parasites usually reach the dog via direct contact with another infested animal, with the mites jumping between the two within even just a few moments of proximity. To diagnose the problem, the vet will commonly just have to perform a physical inspection of the dog and perhaps examine one of the mites under a microscope. Afterward, they will be able to provide a specific type of medication to counter the creatures.
For more information on mite infestations and how to identify them, visit our condition guide, Mite Infestation in Dogs.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Mites?
Once the vet has identifies what type of mites have infested the dog, they will be able to provide you with a treatment plan. This will typically consist of an antiparasitic drug that can be applied directly to the surface of the dog in order to kill off the mites. Oftentimes, this will come in the form of a shampoo, meaning that it can simply be incorporated into the dog’s normal bath routine, making it far easier to treat the dog than if you were using a traditional ointment. Because a large number of the parasites will be protected inside their eggs for several weeks, the dog will require repeated treatments in order to exterminate the entire population. If the treatment instructions are not followed closely, there is a high likelihood that the problem will simply reoccur. After the mites have been eliminated, the dog may need some additional help in order to recover from any damage to their skin or coat that was caused by the infestation. This could include antibiotics to prevent open wounds from becoming infected, or simply dietary supplements such as omega oils to improve the quality of their hair.
To discuss the treatment of mite infestations with one of our in-house vets or to read the experiences of other dog owners dealing with the condition, you can visit our guide to Mite Infestation in Dogs.
How Are Mites Similar In Dogs and Humans?
Although the exact types of parasites that make their home in different species tend to differ, they do share many of the same characteristics, which has a bearing both in the symptoms the cause and the methods that are used to treat them.
The mites will often cause a large amount of irritation and can leave the infested animal open to bacterial infections due to the amount of damage that is done to the skin both by the mites themselves and by the host scratching at the bite marks.
All animals can have their mites treated via topical medications that will kill the parasites. You should keep in mind that in order to kill all of the creatures, repeated doses will be necessary no matter which species is affected.
How Are Mites Different In Dogs and Humans?
There are some very important ways in which the parasites that feed on various animals tend to exhibit separate characteristics, leading to noticeably different effects.
Mites that live on humans (such as scabies mites) are typically asymptomatic until they have developed a large enough population. On dogs and other animals meanwhile, some types of mites will start to cause irritation almost as soon as they are transmitted.
Human mite infestations are much easier to detect than those on dogs due to the exposed nature of the majority of the skin. However, mites attached to humans are also far more likely to burrow into the skin itself, whereas dog-borne mites will commonly live on the skin but under the protective layer provided by the animal’s coat.
Whilst damage to human skin by mites will typically appear as relatively open reddish welts, dogs will develop ‘mange’, which consists of dead skin and dried blood clumped together in the animal’s fur. This provides a great habitat for the mites and can also give bacteria a safe haven.
One day, a dog owner notices their Pomeranian is starting to scratch their head more than usual. Although odd, it does not appear that the dog is under any undue amount of stress, so the person thinks nothing of it. A few days later, the owner notices that the hair surrounding the dog’s ears has started to fall out and the scratching seems to have caused some abrasions of the skin. On closer inspection, the individual notices tiny black dots on their dog’s skin. Fearing that they have fleas, they take the dog to the vet, who reveals that the animal is actually infested with ear mites. Because of the parasites’ concentration around the head, the dog has actually managed to scratch away a significant patch of fur. The vet provides the owner with some shampoo that will kill the parasites and instructs them to maintain the treatment for several weeks. They also advise them to throw away or wash the dog’s bedding in order to prevent re-infestation from happening. After a few weeks of treatment and living in a clean environment, the dog is free of mites and their skin abrasions have healed well.